Davis leaving for NBA; Izzo says it’s byproduct of success

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Deyonta Davis

East Lansing – Michigan State will have to fill significant hole next season with the early departure to the NBA of Deyonta Davis, but coach Tom Izzo isn’t upset Davis decided to leave early.

Davis, a 6-foot-10 freshman from Muskegon, announced on Tuesday he would forgo his final three seasons of eligibility and enter the NBA draft while also hiring an agent, removing any possibility he could return to Michigan State.

It’s an issue for Izzo and the Spartans moving forward, but it’s one he doesn’t mind having.

“If we weren’t in the position to play a freshman that is good enough to have that high of draft interest,” Izzo told The Detroit News, “if you didn’t have a player of that caliber, you wouldn’t have to worry about the problem. So it’s a privilege to have a player of that caliber. It’s not always easy to deal with, but it’s a positive.”

It’s also life in college basketball these days. With the rule stating players must be a year removed from high school to enter the draft, the era of one-and-done is starting to become the norm for the top programs in the country.

It’s no different now for Michigan State as Davis becomes just the second player under Izzo to leave for the NBA after one year, joining Zach Randolph in 2001. The Spartans missed out Monday on Josh Jackson, the top recruit in the nation who is expected to play only one season at Kansas.

Here’s MSU’s likely starting five without Deyonta Davis

Izzo has also signed his best class, one that ranks No. 3 in the nation and includes Flint native Miles Bridges, a player that might be MSU’s next to stay for just one year in college.

“You’re recruiting the top kids in the country,” Izzo said. “We had some letdowns (in recruiting the last two years) but we still went to a Final Four and went 29-6.”

In other words, Michigan State is still in good shape heading into next season.

Bridges is joined by 6-5 guard Joshua Langford from Madison (Ala.) Academy. Both played in the McDonald’s All-American game two weeks ago. Rounding out the class are a pair of four-stars – 6-2 guard Cassius Winston of U-D Jesuit and 6-8 forward Nick Ward of Gahanna (Ohio) Lincoln. Winston was named Michigan’s Mr. Basketball.

Izzo said they’ll keep their eyes and ears open for potential transfers, but said he feels good about the roster as it stands now.

“Three of those four (freshmen) are (likely) gonna play,” Izzo said. “(Matt) McQuaid is gonna play and that’s four. Eron Harris averaged 18 points a game before Denzel (Valentine) was hurt and that’s five. (Gavin) Schilling was our second-best player in Italy, that’s six. Tum (Tum Nairn) played 25 minutes a game throughout the NCAA Tournament last year and got hurt this year. Alvin Ellis has improved a lot. We think Kyle Ahrens is gonna be a good player.”

It all adds up to at least 10 players likely to see significant time, 11 if sophomore Kenny Goins continues his progress.

As for Davis, the former Mr. Basketball averaged 7.5 points and 5.5 rebounds as a freshman, while starting 16 of the final 17 games of the season. He set a Michigan State freshman record with 64 blocks, ranking second on the Spartan single-season chart.

“It was a tough decision, but after talking to my family and coaches, I felt it was the right decision and one I’m fully committed to,” Davis said. “I’d like to thank all of the people that helped me this year – my teammates and coaches, the academic support staff and especially the fans that welcomed me with open arms. Because of their help, I’m in position to fulfill a lifelong dream of playing in the NBA.

“This has been a great year for me at Michigan State – including a memorable trip to Italy, being a part of the best start in school history and winning the Big Ten tournament. I will always be a Spartan and look forward to coming back to campus like so many other pros do now.”

Davis has been projected by most to go in the first round of the NBA draft, which is June 23 in Brooklyn, N.Y.